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Feb. 12, 2021, 5:01 a.m. EST

Which is better, the 2021 Toyota RAV4 or the 2021 Honda CR-V?

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Abigail Bassett

The 2021 Toyota /zigman2/quotes/200537742/composite TM -0.74% RAV4 and 2021 Honda /zigman2/quotes/207173990/composite HMC +0.03% CR-V are two popular, reliable, compact crossovers. Which is better?

Quick facts

  • The Toyota RAV4 recently added a plug-in hybrid variant.

  • The Honda CR-V gets a new hybrid variant.

2021 Toyota RAV4

Base Price : $27,225 

What we like:  Multiple powertrains including two hybrids; PHEV’s long-range; standard active-safety features

What we would change:  Increase headroom; quiet the standard engine

Overview:  The latest Toyota RAV4 has an expressive exterior design that carries through to the interior, although there are some cheap materials on lower trims. Headroom is tight, but the passenger room is otherwise good, and cargo space is mid-pack. 

The RAV4 has an unusually wide range of model variants. The standard RAV4 has a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine making 203 horsepower, which is suitable for this segment but just adequate in practice. Engine refinement is lacking. The 2.5L is paired with an 8-speed automatic (preferable to a CVT) and FWD or AWD. The AWD system in the Adventure and TRD Off-Road variants has selectable off-road driving modes and hill-descent control. Fuel economy is 30 mpg (FWD) and 28–30 mpg (AWD). 

Also read: The 2021 Kia Seltos—an urban warrior with an adventurous spirit

The RAV4 Hybrid with two electric motors is AWD only and musters 219 hp. More notably, its EPA combined rating is 40 mpg. The PHEV RAV4 Prime makes a whopping 302 hp, which more than compensates for its extra weight, zooming to 60 mph in 5.7 seconds. Impressively, it also can travel 42 miles on battery power alone, which is more than most PHEVs. Recharging takes 12 hours with a 120v source or 4.5 hours with 240v, while an upgraded charger cuts that to 2.5 hours.

What’s new for 2021:  The big news for 2021 is the arrival of the plug-in-hybrid RAV4 Prime. The regular RAV4 Hybrid, meanwhile, adds a new XLE Premium trim level, and the regular RAV4’s TRD Off-Road trim gets a new front skid plate.

Features and technology:  The 2021 Toyota RAV4 and RAV4 Hybrid offer LE, XLE, XLE Premium, and Limited grades. The regular RAV4 also has the AWD-only Adventure and TRD Off-Road variants with revised suspension tuning and a more rugged appearance. 

See: The 25 most fuel-efficient SUVs of 2021

The Hybrid additional offers a sporty XSE trim, and the Prime is SE or XSE only. All RAV4s come standard with a solid list of active-safety features: forward collision warning with pedestrian detection and automatic emergency braking, lane-departure warning, lane-keep assist, adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go capability, lane-tracing assist (lane-centering), and road-sign recognition. 

Also see: Which is better, the 2021 Honda Accord or the 2021 Nissan Altima?

Blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert are optional on the LE and standard elsewhere. The infotainment uses a 7-, 8-, or 9-inch touchscreen, depending on trim level, and smartphone mirroring is standard. It all works well with hard keys to jump to main functions, but the graphics look a little dated. A head-up display, a 360-degree-view camera, and a rear camera mirror are available on upper trims.

What does the future hold?  The RAV4 is recently revamped, so we don’t expect any changes soon. 

2021 Honda CR-V

Base Price:   $26,120

What we like:  Peppy 1.5-liter turbo I4; available hybrid options; well-executed interior and cargo area; plenty of standard safety features

What we would change:  Add high-performance, non-hybrid engine option; lack of redundant controls for the touchscreen interface; Apple /zigman2/quotes/202934861/composite AAPL +0.51% CarPlay and Android Auto missing from the base model

Overview:  With the win of Autotrader’s Best New Car for 2020 for the CR-V Hybrid, the Honda CR-V continues to keep on trucking. Unchanged for 2021, it features the Honda Sensing safety suite as standard. A well-designed and executed interior is welcoming and quite roomy. Couple that with the CR-V’s fun-to-drive feeling, reliability, and resale value, and it is easy to see why the Honda CR-V is a rousing success.

What’s new for 2021:  Model-year 2020 saw the standardization of such features as the Honda Sensing safety suite, and the introduction of the new CR-V Hybrid version. For 2021, the CR-V remains relatively unchanged.

Features and technology:  Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard on most trims, and Honda Sensing is present on all. All-wheel drive is an available option except with the CR-V Hybrid, where it is standard. Buyers can equip their CR-Vs with various features like leather upholstery, a power liftgate, foglights, and premium audio systems, depending on which trim level they select.

What does the future hold?  The Honda CR-V is the company’s best-selling crossover vehicle, so don’t expect them to mess, too much, with their success. At the same time, a new sixth-generation vehicle should be ready for model-year 2022. 

RAV4 vs. CR­-V: Strengths comparison

Toyota RAV4 benefits:  Hybrid and plug-in-hybrid variants; off-road specialty version; tows up to 3,500 pounds

Honda CR-V benefits:  Stellar Honda quality and resale, not to mention easy to drive/easy to live with features, makes the CR-V a perennial favorite.

See: The 2020 Kia Sorento or Toyota 4Runner: Which is better?

2021 Toyota RAV4 vs. 2021 Honda CR-V: Which is better?

Both the Honda CR-V and the Toyota RAV4 offer plenty of terrific amenities, and both have stellar reliability and resale value. If you’re looking for something a bit more off-road capable, the RAV4 has the edge here due to the rugged TRD Off-Road. This comparison really comes down to how you intend to use it. 

This story originally ran on  .

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